Integrating teaching and ministry
February 2022 – We recently sat down with Gary Simpson, associate professor of preaching and pastoral formation at Drew Theological School, to discuss his vocational adaptability as a professor and pastor.
Simpson is also the Leading Pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn—a position he has held in the community for over 30 years. The church is celebrating 175 years as a witness in May.
Simpson, who came to Drew in 2002, holds a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary.
How does your work as leading pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ compliment your role at Drew?
I believe my calling is as pastor-teacher. The work in the Theological School and the congregation are integrative parts of the whole. At Drew, my students explore broad questions, such as the meaning of life, human realities, and conflicts of differences. I’m able to work with them to explore the world beyond the Bible. In the classroom, there is no separation between practical theory and theoretical theory—they are integrated, living in both places at once.
I’m blessed to be able to integrate my work in the church and at Drew. The people in the church teach me much and I bring those learnings to the classroom. Both complement each other so beautifully, and (hopefully) I’m able to move fluidly between both spaces.
You were called to ministry very early in life. What led you to a lifetime of ministry?
My father was a minister, but my exposure to his work is only a small part of my story. We believed in the responsibility of advocacy and service. We were taught in our home that the gift of voice and access are to be shared as advocates for those who are not invited into those spaces. When I find myself at tables of power, it is my duty to be an advocate for the absent and ignored.
What brought you to Drew Theological School?
I was invited as a guest lecturer for the late Dr. Charles Rice, former professor of homiletics at Drew. After repeating those lectures, Maxine Beach, emerita dean of the Theological School, and the faculty created a space for me to begin teaching. I haven’t looked back! I’m grateful I have not had to choose between the two communities where my sense of vocation lives passionately.